The Detroit Lions open training camp on Aug. 3 and with it, the 2015 season will commence. In a change from most seasons, the Lions are coming off a playoff berth and one of the best seasons in franchise history.
Can the Lions repeat that? Each day from now until training camp, we will look at one position group to prepare for the 2015 season.
Position status: Fairly stable
Position thoughts: I’ve written it a bunch, but Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo were one of the top safety tandems in the NFL last season. Their rapport is almost unmatched among safety pairings in the league as they live somewhat close to one another in Houston and train together in the offseason. That helped last season -- their first as a safety duo in Detroit -- and should pay dividends again this season.
This is a fairly deep group as well. Isa Abdul-Quddus did well when he had to play in place of Ihedigbo at the start of last season and could end up replacing Ihedigbo in 2016 if he returns to the team and Ihedigbo does not. (Both are unrestricted free agents after 2015.) Don Carey is a core special teams player and should win the fourth safety job over rookies Isaiah Johnson and Brian Suite.
The interesting player here is Taylor Mays. The former second-round pick has bounced around the league from San Francisco to Cincinnati, Minnesota and now Detroit. He would have to beat out Carey or outplay corners, linebackers and receivers on special teams to make the squad, but he does provide a veteran push to Carey and Abdul-Quddus as well as another mentor for Johnson and Suite. As I mentioned last month, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Johnson and Suite on the practice squad in September.
What the Lions need to see in camp: More of the same from the spring and last season. Yes, there were times Ihedigbo struggled down the stretch of the 2014 season -- including a benching against Green Bay in the regular season finale -- but if he can keep his early 2014 form, Detroit will be in good shape at safety. An interesting thing to watch would be how often the Lions practice with the three-safety nickel package they used last season. It was an effective grouping and could impact the cornerback depth chart as well.
Detroit likely wouldn’t mind having to make a tough decision behind the top three safeties because it either means the Lions found a gem in the undrafted free agent class or made a strong late value signing in Mays. It would not be surprising to see those four safety spots locked up fairly early in camp though.
Who ends up on the roster: Quin, Ihedigbo, Abdul-Quddus, Carey.